Over the past few days, several key figures in our history have died. Though they were from different disciplines, Neville Aming, 94, Edmond Hart, 94, Cecil Kelsick, 97, and Clive Pantin, 84, were all part of a unique and talented generation that witnessed this country’s transition into an independent nation. They embodied service to country.
When he took office as Chief Justice in 1983, Cecil Kelsick minced no words.
“It is the essence of our democratic legal system to ensure that the Judiciary, to whom the Constitution has entrusted the protection of our fundamental rights and freedoms, should be politically and economically independent,” Kelsick said in his inaugural opening of the law term address. “The judges should not be overtly or covertly dependent on the arbitrary of discretionary granting or withholding of favours by the Executive.” At the same time, his own legal community was subject to his pointed criticism. He chastised lawyers for declining to serve as judges.
“It is the civic duty and, in large measure, the responsibility of the capable and suitably qualified members of the profession to render service,” Kelsick said. “The public image of members of the profession as being concerned primarily with self-enrichment and only secondarily with providing service commensurate with their rewards still persists.” His concerns would be echoed repeatedly in years to come.
But someone else who understood service to the nation well, was Pantin.
Pantin was a husband, father, teacher, sportsman, social activist, principal of Fatima College, founder of Foundation for the Enhancement and Enrichment of Life (FEEL) and Minister of Education in the NAR government during a period of economic difficulty with the wane of the 1970s oil boom.
It is not often remembered that Pantin also played a role in carrying on the business of government during the fraught days of the 1990 Muslimeen terrorist attack. He was consulted on key issues relating to broadcasts during that time as well as the policy decision to enter negotiations with the hostage-takers.
Here was an individual who served in a wide range of endeavours and who came from a family with a strong tradition of service. Pantin was brother to late Roman Catholic Archbishop Anthony Pantin.
But our citizens have excelled in areas outside of law and politics. Hart and Aming were from a vital generation of mas practitioners.
Hart’s name has been synonymous with fun-loving mas and his partnership with his wife, Lil, lasted from 1962 to 1991. Early presentations included, Flagwavers of Siena and Was This Greece, embracing Carnival’s tradition of a global outlook. With Lil, Hart embraced fantasy themes and even incorporated tassa music. The band is said to be the first to use bikinis and beads as a base for a woman’s costume which undeniably changed the Carnival landscape. Love it or loathe it, the Harts’ experiment with one section became immensely popular with the people that matter: the masqueraders. It is now the norm for Carnival.
“He lived and died mas,” was how Bobby Aming described his father, the late Neville Aming. He outlined his father’s role in the regional development of Carnival.
“He was always into Bermuda and Washington DC,” Bobby said. “He would always come after Bermuda and join us and bring Carnival. He helped develop carnival in Washington DC.”
Culture Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly last week hailed the work of the two masmen. She said, “Both made sterling contributions to the Carnival mas fraternity, and their legacies should remind us of the beauty of living and enjoying life.” Gadsby-Dolly said she hoped their passion would inspire.
We too share this hope. But we also call for our institutions to properly archive and document the achievement of our national icons. That is essential if future generations can learn from them.